By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The band's perfectly executed accompaniment consistently matched Willie's vocal mastery, and by the time he called for "Whittier Boulevard," the ultimate cruising instro of all time, it was a crafty setup; the singer disappeared from the stage only to race back and launch into Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light." Indeed he turned it on, drawing on some mystical reserve of lung power, artistry and strength in a profound display of showmanship and soul. (Jonny Whiteside)
at the Smell, January 31
The Apes come out of D.C., and they sound like they have ideas about warlords and wealth distribution. An impression immediately gone — everything's so close at hand that nothing can be discerned. The noise is blinding. If you could perhaps pull back some from the experience, an outline might be glimpsed. But there's nowhere to pull back to, the room's nothing but sound. Sonic clap and cigarette-burn girls leaning against walls that just can't get over being walls, holding the crowd in their hands. The drums sucker-punch, the keys like ice cracking. A sharp intake of breath and a blow to the head. No guitar, nothing clean.
None of these details really conveys much. The band played with heat. The singer all Union blue and scruff, screaming like the lights went suddenly out. The Apes are more than a few pins on the evening's map. These kids play like the very idea of a map would send them into a homicidal rage. If difficult to pin down, the sound is still consistent, driving, brooding, moving toward something. Perhaps that's the key — the movement, snarling processional. There's a procession of images beneath this, visible only in what they displace, mouths shoved open, doorway looking newly slit. This is the soundtrack for the darkly inverted, blood leaking out of helmet, abandoned subway, anything methodical, anything that seems to run on meat.
All this and danceable too. Like the Liars but not. Let's just say they rocked. Let's just say they sounded like a dog snarling at the end of its tether, furious, yes, but thrilled too by its ever-tightening noose. (Russel Swensen)
THE DIVINE COMEDY
at the Troubadour, January 28
"Songs of Love," the Divine Comedy's signature number, finds leader Neil Hannan peering down at the merely human lusts of "pale, pubescent beasts" to the tune of a lilting, Francophilic waltz, writing about the primal drives we mortals merely experience. This sort of arch fop-pop, combined with the untranslatable Englishness of many of Hannan's references, is usually a hard sell stateside, so the more-than-healthy (though more pale than pubescent) turnout for this show was a mild surprise. Maybe it shouldn't have been: Hannan's meta-songs may reside on the same rarefied plane as Momus' or Stephin Merritt's, but neither has his warmth as a performer, nor his gratitude for an audience's attention. "I have a cold tonight," he announced several songs in, "but I'm not going to let it affect me, because you deserve better." (It didn't sound as smarmy as it reads.)
Behind Hannan, alternating between digital keyboard and acoustic guitar, his band often sounded fuller than three pieces should: Simon Little switched seamlessly between electric and standup bass, while drummer Rob Farrer manned both kit and vibes on the John Barry style instrumental opener, plus congas and xylophone later on. Guitarist Ivor Tolbert turned the potentially overarranged mélange into actual rock & roll via driving but harmonically fitting solos. Tonight's set was long on material from an upcoming record, which finds Hannan moving further from his soi-disant persona, making credible songs out of waking up early ("Leaving Today") and midtour malaise ("Idaho"), and a touching one ("The Happy Goth") from what could have been a silly character sketch.
By the time "Songs of Love" came around, the singer had loosened up enough to admit, midsong, that he'd forgotten to play the piano solo. An obviously unplanned cover of Brecht-Weill's "Moon of Alabama" and a few strained high notes (courtesy of that cold) brought the point home: More Balzac than Dante, Hannan's comedy is human after all. (Franklin Bruno)
HALFORD, TESTAMENT, DEATH ANGEL, VIO-LENCE, EXHUMED
at House of Blues, February 2
Only the Power of Metal could make 800 cranky bastards stand shoulder to shoulder for five hours with barely enough room to raise their fists and yell. Exhumed: nonstop undifferentiated death-woof and double-kick. Vio-Lence: the original link between hardcore punk and speed metal, tight and dynamic. The reunited Death Angel: thrash wraiths with spidery dreads, bristling trebly edge and twin-guitar spark. Testament: bestial hulkers burping and hair-whipping amid smoke, echo and sensual densities.
But: Why lawd why is Rob Halford barging these Bay Area relics around with him, when his older English métier is a metal so foreign? After establishing a certain inhuman kinship via the shriek-and-pummel Judas Priest classic "Painkiller," the former Priest vocalist and his four horsemen (cunningly dubbed "Halford") embarked on a sustained demonstration of what distinguishes them from the throngs of latter-day ironworkers: songs and a singer. Now, these are old-fashioned accouterments, remnants of a sunnier era when even factory drones liked to warble along to merry melodies of hatred and alienation. Strange thing, though: They still do. When Halford (who had squeaked into the country following now-standard visa wars) wound up his hour with the Priest party anthem "Living After Midnight," he simply handed the whole song over to the audience, who weren't too tired to sing (not just yell) every damned note, as their leatherbound daddy crossed his arms and beamed a lovely, paternal smile.